HAMBURG — Call the bounce lucky or unlucky, depending upon your side, but the Northwestern Lehigh Tigers will call it lucky and move on to the PIAA Class 2A girls soccer semifinals after a 2-1 overtime victory over the Boiling Springs Bubblers at Hamburg High School’s Hawk Hill on Saturday afternoon.
Northwestern Lehigh sophomore midfielder Bailey Groff ripped a shot from just outside the penalty box that bounced off the crossbar and deflected off Bubblers goalkeeper Bekah Becker into the net for the game-winner with 4:16 left in the first overtime period.
“Both teams had chances, and it is unfortunate that the ball bounced off the crossbar and off the keeper, but sometimes you need some luck in this game,” Tigers coach Kelly Bleam said. “We knew who we needed to be aware of on offense, and they proved to be tough. We have been talking to Bailey and our other players about taking that chance from the edge of the box and see what happens.”
District 11 champ Northwestern Lehigh (18-3-1) will move on to play District 1’s St. Basil on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
For the Bubblers, it was just a case of a bad bounce. Because it bounced off the bar so quickly, Becker was able to get a hand on it, but it was already in at that point.
District 3 champ Boiling Springs (17-6) had the better of the chances in the opening half as leading scorers Maddie Hughes and Bethany Decker each had quality looks, but Tigers goalie McKenna Amey was up to the task on Decker’s shot.
The Tigers’ defense was able to clear Hughes’ shot from behind the keeper and out of play.
The Tigers were content to play long ball and hope the Boiling Springs defense would make a mistake. The experienced Bubblers defense, though, worked well together to tip passes away or send the ball back up field.
A great pass from Maggie Motolese to Sara Hathaway gave the Tigers their lone chance midway through the half, but Becker was in good position and deflected the ball out of danger.
Early in the second half, Hughes made a nice move and buried a shot to give the Bubblers a 1-0 lead.
The goal seemed to energize the Tigers, though, as they put two dangerous scoring chances on net. The second one was buried by Hathaway on an assist from Motolese to tie the game, 1-1.
The Bubblers had a go-ahead goal on a corner kick nullified as the cross came in but sailed out of bounds and back in. Jocelynne Kuhns had the header that wasn’t counted.
Boiling Springs also had two good chances in the final two minutes of regulation, but Hughes’ shot was just wide of the net, and Decker’s shot was blocked by the Tiger defense.
Early in overtime, Hughes sent Decker in between two Northwestern Lehigh players, but she was muscled down to the ground as she went to shoot.
Moments later, the Tigers sent the Bubblers to a heart-breaking defeat.
“We had a couple of chances, and they had a couple of chances, but the goalkeepers made good plays,” said Boiling Springs coach Steve Brookens, whose team also lost in last year’s state quarterfinals. “I feel bad for our seniors and for [injured senior goalie] Asia [Whittenberger]. It was just a bad bounce for us. We just didn’t finish a couple of chances we had. Our kids have nothing to hang their heads about. It was a great season that just ended too quickly.”
The Bubblers say goodbye to six seniors, including Decker, who, according to Brookens, ended her career with 96 points, just short of the coveted 100-point mark.